Face-off with a Flashback

Since D-day, I have suffered PTSD-type flashbacks.  I can’t tell when a flashback is lurking until it’s pulling me in.  Something will trigger me and I will feel that twisting of my stomach.   I can never tell if that trigger is just going to make me feel sad or if it will spiral into a full-blown flashback.  Sometimes I think I stop it with deep breaths.  I focus on the sound of my breathing in and breathing out all the toxins.   I imagine myself in a happy moment where I am in control and feel good.   For me, that’s in the middle of a dance routine.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

When breathing and imaging dance doesn’t work, and I am sucked into a flashback, there is nothing I can do to fight it.  It is overwhelming.  Sometimes it’s so bad I cannot function and I cannot think clearly enough to even try to get out of it.  But at some point, I think it’s only a few minutes, I realize that it is not real.  I have been there before and I have gotten out before.  I close my eyes and acknowledge that I am in a flashback.  I have been trying too hard to be normal and meet the demands of life.  My heart needs to feel the pain for a while.  I let the pain take over.  In this state, it’s better if I just shut down and go to bed.  If I can’t and I need to function, I can, but with great difficulty.  I cannot do any thinking or reasoning.  I can move about and cook dinner, and make sure my grandbaby is ok, but that takes great effort.  In my mind, I am in my living room with my husband’s laptop.  My heart is all over the floor.  I cannot see straight.  It’s very hard to function when this is playing in my head, but I can if I have to.  It’s like watching two TV shows at the same time.  The flashback will not end until I have allowed my heart to cry enough and that always takes shut down time.

At some point I can feel that my heart has let out enough pain.  Then I have learned to create a daydream of sorts.  I tell myself that there is a way out even though I cannot see it yet.  I look for the chi inside me.  I focus on it… my chi burning like a glowing ball inside of me.  My chi flows into my hands, which are so heavy.  My chi helps them to reach out to God.  I lift my pain to Him and call out for help.  Help me, Lord, I have fallen back inside my hole.  Sometimes He just embraces me for a while before He lifts me up.  Sometimes He lifts me straight up.  As I come out, the weight of the pain is lifted.  But I will generally remain sad for the rest of the day, or sometimes days.  I have not been able to just get up and move on, but this daydream has made coming out faster and easier.

So there you have one of my weirdest struggles.  It doesn’t sound like flashbacks I have seen on TV or read about.  But that’s how they work for me.

BUT THEN,

On Saturdays, my husband and I go to exercise class together.  This past Saturday we went in separate cars because I had an errand to run beforehand.   After class he said he was going to the bank.  So I went home.  An hour later he was still out.  The bank is very near our gym.  Huge trigger – him staying out on weekends. He used to spend all his weekend afternoons talking to her.   Today he knows very well that not knowing where he is on weekends is a huge trigger for me.  He has witnessed me in a flashback when he has done this before.  So he had to have been doing it on purpose.  My stomach was twisting and I knew I was spinning into a flashback.  I needed to do something.  I could no longer just let it control me.  So I opened the notes from a discussion I had had with my therapist.  In dealing with flashbacks,he said to create distraction.  Take control.

I read it again.  In that session, I gave the above description of what a flashback is generally like for me.  I read it again and a third time again.  It struck me that this was ridiculous.  My husband had ridiculed me about it a few days prior and he said I was being ridiculous.  He was right!  Tactless, but so right.    What was I fighting against?  Myself.  My own mind.  My mind was where these flashbacks lived.  It was not real.  My mind played it out.  There was nothing real to attach it to.  My husband caused the original trauma, but he was not causing this flashback.  That was my own doing.  In my old fear of heights, there was an element of truth in that I could get hurt if I fell.  And still I managed to overcome that fear.  But in this case, there was nothing really there to fear.  I was by myself.  The only thing my husband was doing was playing with my mind.  Was my mind going to be weak?  Was I going to allow him to play me this way?  I read my notes again and again.  I got stronger as I did.  Reading my own description about my flashbacks somehow allowed me to see it from a different perspective.  It became something to study – how do I express that – it moved my flashbacks from emotion and fear to reasoning and thinking.  Is that it?  I think it is.

My stomach stopped twisting.  I was still upset at my husband, but I was not going to allow a flashback to occur.  And it didn’t.  I don’t know if this will work every time, but it worked on Saturday.  I was emotionally drained afterward, but I was ok.  I’m still a little down, but not in that hole.

My husband later said that on Saturday he left class and went shopping after the bank.  His explanation still leaves at least an hour unaccounted for.  But whatever, I’m done with that.  If he was hoping to gain some control with that move, he lost.

AND I WON in a battle against a flashback!  Major victory!  I’m not ready to say it is over, but I’m at the top of the hill right now.  Not any better off in my relationship with my husband, but inside myself, I am much better.

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10 thoughts on “Face-off with a Flashback

  1. Teresa says:

    He seems very cruel to you…HE has created this in you…and deliberately hurts you again and again, reminding you of the pain he has caused…I’m at a loss for words!

  2. Not Over It says:

    I think he really does not realize the extent of my pain. He said recently that he believes I am not in pain anymore. I am just torturing him to get even. Go figure…

  3. tryingtoowife says:

    His acknowledging and understanding of your pain, is the only way that these negative feelings will start to lose the grip on you. It is also primordial for him to understand that, if he really wants to have you by his side, healed and happy again, it is his job to be fully involved, in body and soul. But also, I understand that as hard as it is, it is necessary some form of distance from the source of your pain (if he does not understand that he should be part of this healing), to work on yourself FIRST and solely, and once you are stronger, YOU will have the chance to see clearly if you have the strength and want to keep “taking the mountain to Mohammad”. It seems that he ridiculed you for your feelings, because that is what he feels about himself, but it is easier to place his feelings of awkwardness on you, because you ‘make’ him feel like that, because the pain you are displaying, IS caused by his actions. He is once more making it ALL about him, again. He is cruel, because he is weak. I am not a psychologist, and I am sorry if I am overstepping here, but I do understand what you are saying. Wishing you all the best.

    • Not Over It says:

      Tryingtoowife,

      Thank you for your comment. I appreciate someone who can be straight up and honest. You’re absolutely right about everything.

      I am not at the point of saying I need to leave, but I know that I am strong enough now to say that I can find happiness with or without him. I would prefer it to be with him, but if we cannot find a way to understand each other, then a different path may be the only way.

      He has agreed to counseling, and our first session went ok, so my personal therapist and I both feel he needs to be given a chance. We’ll see.

      Thank you again!
      DJ

  4. PTSD symptoms from affairs are the real deal…I wrote a post about my own experience(s) with this a few days ago. I’m glad you found a way to start consciously overcoming it.

    • Not Over It says:

      Hi Pandaqueen – cute name! It’s nice to meet you. I had a few minutes this afternoon and went to visit your blog. I like it, but didn’t find your post about PTSD. Would you give me a link to it?

      It has been almost a year since I wrote this post. In that time, I have gotten much, much better. I had a flashback a couple of weeks ago, but for the most part they are gone. Thank goodness. They are debilitating, to say the very least.

      My husband is also easier to deal with now than he was a year ago. His natural reaction to guilt and remorse is anger, but he is less angry these days.

      You are not far along into your journey. It’s always with sadness that I welcome someone here, but I am glad you have found our blogging community. We share, we vent, we cry for each other, and we help each other work through the difficulties. Hope to see you often…

      Love & prayers,
      DJ

      • Hi DJ. The specific post was:

        http://bananafish101.wordpress.com/2012/09/19/158/

        but I’ve written about the daily symptoms (mostly dreams/flashbacks/continuing shock upon waking) in a fair number of my posts in some way.

        It is relatively recent… The passing of time and healing seems painfully slow. Everything snowballed so fast at the end. I am in the process of my second move in four months, wish me luck.

      • Not Over It says:

        Yes, good luck! Hope this one turns out to be a comfortable one.

        It’s nice to be able to change things up or move things around. I was not able to move, so I completely redecorated and repurposed rooms in my house. You can go further… that can be a good thing. A great thing!

        But you also need to be grounded to something to retain a sense of who you are. Maybe something from before your relationship would be good…

        Praying for the best for you as you move forward…

        DJ

  5. yo says:

    I just started reading your blog and I am devastated for you. Your husband seems so entitled…so unremorseful…so cruel. He should be on his knees pleading for forgiveness. Instead, he deliberately baits you…calls you “silly” for crying over his treachery. He is callous and lacks empathy. Do you think he could be a narcissist? I want to give you a hug and introduce you to a good man.

    • DJ says:

      Thank you, Yo. I receive your hug in cyberspace! I am no longer devastated as I once was, though. I leave this blog online as a chronicle of what it took to get me through the trauma phase of infidelity, but I am not there anymore. The story has a pretty good ending! There will always be some pain at the thought of it all, but I don’t think about it all the time anymore. My husband learned a lot through counseling and prayer, and is a much better husband today. All he had to do was take his mind off of his own pain to see mine. I wouldn’t say it’s all good, but it is better and it is where we both belong right now. We have a lot of fun!
      Hope you are well in your life. Love & peace to you ~DJ

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